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Silent bike ride calls attention to cyclists’ safety on public roads

A procession of local cyclists ride on Green Street during a silent bike ride on May 18. The ride was part of a national movement to raise awareness for cyclists who have been killed while biking and promote biking safety.

On Wednesday night, about 20 local cyclists participated in a silent bike ride to honor those who were killed or injured while biking on public roadways. 

The Ride of Silence began in 2003 as a tribute to cyclists who were killed by motorists. It aims to raise awareness for bikers’ safety on public roads and ask motorists to share the road with bikers.

Before the ride began, about 20 local cyclists gathered in the parking lot of Champaign’s I-Hotel under a slowly setting sun. A slight breeze rolled through the lot while soft shadows dulled the bright colors of many cyclists’ neon vests and shirts. 

Organizer Susan Jones from Urbana said she’s ridden in most of Champaign-Urbana’s Rides of Silence since the community began organizing the rides about 10 years ago after a distracted driver hit cyclists Cindy and David Combs. Cindy died, and David was critically injured. 

“To me, it’s a reminder of how we have to keep being vigilant and communicating to drivers that there are many different users of the road,” Jones said. “… Silence speaks louder than words. We’re not looking for retaliation, we’re looking for respect.”

Urbana resident Cynthia Hoyle spread the word about the ride via social media. She currently serves as the president of Ride Illinois, a statewide bike advocacy organization.

Hoyle said the silent ride is meant to be a moment of silence to honor cyclists’ who died while biking. She said cities can reduce the number of cyclist deaths by changing street designs and cultural perspectives related to sharing roadway space. 

“We all need to get where we’re going,” she said. “Some people have to use bikes, some people have to walk, some people are using wheelchairs, and we all need to be able to do it safely.”

Urbana residents Lisa and Corey Curtiss attended Wednesday night’s Ride of Silence with their two sons. The pair said Champaign-Urbana is the most bike-friendly community that they’ve lived in. 

As a first-time participant and avid biker, Corey said the silent ride is an homage to cyclists who were killed or injured by motorists. 

“It’s nice to have moments like this when we can reach back to those people and think about them and the memories we’ve had with them,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about this ride is that we can bring that back and bring awareness that there are cyclists in our communities.”

As a second-time participant, Lisa agreed, saying there needs to be more awareness for people who were seriously injured or killed while biking. She said the Ride of Silence serves as a tribute to these cyclists. 

“It’s a memorial,” she said. “We’re supposed to be silent because those people can’t speak anymore, so we should ride in silence and honor of them. They no longer have a voice, so it’s important to ride in silence for them.”

John Prince of Champaign said he considers Champaign-Urbana to be an incredibly bike-friendly community. He said he’s participated in the Rides of Silence since its inception and knows people who were killed while cycling. 

He compared the silent ride to a funeral march. 

“That’s why it’s silent,” he said. “It’s like what you would do at a funeral. You would have your car quiet, and you drive at a relatively slow pace, so it’s that kind of a procession.”

Before the ride began, the cyclists paused to honor and name some local bikers who were killed by motorists. 

At about 7:15 p.m., the procession departed from the I-Hotel, heading to downtown Champaign and downtown Urbana before looping back to the hotel. 

Picture of Sydney Wood

Sydney Wood

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